Sony SLT-A99 review by Dave Etchells at Imaging Resource: For the first time, Sony has a full-frame SLR (more properly, SLT) to challenge Canon and Nikon, and even win a few rounds in the process.

Sony SLT-A99 review by Dave Etchells at Imaging Resource: For the first time, Sony has a full-frame SLR (more properly, SLT) to challenge Canon and Nikon, and even win a few rounds in the process.
Sony SLT-A99 review by Dave Etchells at Imaging Resource: For the first time, Sony has a full-frame SLR (more properly, SLT) to challenge Canon and Nikon, and even win a few rounds in the process.

If there's only one review you'll ever need to read about the A99, this is it. It may be slightly less technical than those of DPreview, but boy, does it deliver elsewhere. For one, it is 2 reviews in one: Famous photographer and extreme skier  Scott Rinckenberger ​writes a introductory pro users report, having taken the A99 to the places he usually hangs out, snow covered mountains, and breathtaking slopes. 

"The Sony Alpha A99 boasts some of the most impressive technology ever placed in a DSLR, even more advanced than what's found in many high-end pro models. It's a fast shooting, fast focusing, weather-sealed, video-friendly and eminently customizable camera, all in a smaller and lighter package than its competition. As such, the A99 marks Sony's first -- and long-awaited -- attempt at becoming a true player in the pro DSLR arena. 

 The Sony A99 employs a full-frame version of Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology, which provides faster frame rates" and constant autofocus. Of course, that means it doesn't have an optical viewfinder -- but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Our pro reviewer, Scott Rinckenberger, raved about Sony A99's electronic viewfinder, calling it a great resource and huge advantage when shooting, especially for non-standard exposures, allowing you to see what your exposure will look like before pushing the shutter button. Between this and the optional histogram display in the EVF, he said it's really hard to blow an exposure with the Sony A99. 

 The Sony A99 doesn't stop there with the cutting-edge technologies. For greater accuracy and improved subject tracking, the camera integrates phase-detect sensors in the imaging sensor itself, which is a 35mm 24.3-megapixel Exmor CMOS chip. An impressive AF Range control feature lets you pre-define an autofocus range via a simple onscreen graphical scale. This keeps the camera from being confused by interposed foreground objects or distraction by background objects, greatly easing common photographic hassles such as shooting through chain-link fences at public venues. The A99 also features continuous full-frame shooting up to 6fps, 14-bit RAW file capability, Sensor-shift image stabilization, Full HD video at 60p, Sweep Panorama mode, ISOs up to 25,600 and much more. 

 So does the A99 live up to all the hype? For the most part it does. 

 We loved the design, ergonomics and control layout of the Sony A99, which borrows more from the curvy, modern aesthetics of the speedy Sony A77 than it does the classic A900. In fact, some may find it hard to tell the difference at first glance between the A99 and A77. But what's inside the Sony A99 is truly revolutionary. And the results are hard to deny. 

 The A99 produces crisp, sharp, beautiful still images even at high ISO levels. The combination of the Sony Alpha A99's full-frame sensor, sensor-based SteadyShot image stabilization and, of course, some quality lenses, produced top-flight images with exceptional dynamic range. And its 14-bit RAW files allow for immense latitude and adjustment in post production. 

 On the downside, we were disappointed that the A99's 10fps Tele Zoom mode only produces 4.6 megapixel jpegs (and the 8fps mode only 10-megapixel ones), making the continuous mode really only 6fps in practice. That's still decent, better than other full-frame competitors near its price point, but not what we were expecting from this camera, given its translucent-mirror technology. Our pro reviewer was most concerned about the reliability and endurance of the A99, after experiencing a few electronic glitches in the field, but it does bear nothing that those occurred at very cold temperatures with high humidity, conditions a majority of users will never encounter. 

 As for video performance, the Sony A99 proved to be extremely responsive, and demonstrated very good detail and color with few compression artifacts, although we did encounter some rather noticeable moiré problems with some subjects. We're a huge fan of the A99's always-live phase detect AF, which easily keeps fast-moving subjects in focus while recording. Pros will love the external stereo audio input with manual level control and the provision of a headphone jack for audio monitoring. (There's even a clever option that syncs the audio to either the live action or the video stream itself.) The Sony A99's ability to output uncompressed video via its HDMI port is another huge plus for pros, allowing the use of an external video recorder. On the other hand, we weren't so impressed that the Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual exposure video modes were only available with manual focus, and the aforementioned moiré was fairly annoying. 

 All in all, there's little doubt that, Sony has created a DSLR that's packed with revolutionary technology, one that many pros will fall in love with instantly, and that many more will learn to love over time. For the first time, Sony has a full-frame SLR (more properly, SLT) to challenge Canon and Nikon, and even win a few rounds in the process. 

 If you hadn't guessed by now, the Sony A99 earns a resounding Dave's Pick. 

Pros 
Excellent image quality 
Very high resolution 
Very good high ISO performance 
Very good dynamic range in RAW files 
Sensor-shift image stabilization 
Articulating LCD 
Fast autofocus and minimal shutter lag 
Continuous phase-detect autofocus 
Focus peaking for MF assist 
Unique focus range mode limits AF to user-defined subject distance range 
Special Depth-Map Assist mode for significantly improved focus tracking (some lenses only) 
Mature multi-shot modes (HDR, MSNR, Handheld Twilight, Sweep Panorama) 
14 bit RAW mode (prior models were 12 bit) 
Good full-resolution burst mode speed for its class 
Very fast crop modes (up to 10 fps at 4.6 megapixels, 8 fps at 10MP) 
Fast USB transfers 
Dual card slots, with UHS-I support 
Good quality Full HD video at up to 60fps, with good detail and color 
Supports both AVCHD and MOV file formats 
Very responsive, always-on phase-detect AF during movie recording 
Stereo internal mic, stereo mic input 
Adjustable audio recording levels, optional VU-meter display 
Headphone jack for monitoring audio during recording 
HDMI output supports uncompressed recording on external recorder 
Auto-crop makes it easy to use APS-C lenses 
Built-in GPS 

Cons 
High ISO performance not quite as good as some competing full-frame DSLRs 
Sensor isn't user-cleanable, because of fixed mirror 
Warm auto white balance in tungsten lighting 
No built-in flash 
Poor battery life without optional battery grip 
Prefocused shutter lag slow without electronic first curtain enabled 
Fastest 10fps mode produces only small JPEGs 
Exhibited some in-the-field electronic glitches under extreme conditions (very low temperatures with high humidity) 
"Off" High ISO noise reduction setting applies stronger NR to red channel than "Low" or "Normal" 
Deep features make for a somewhat steep learning curve 
Could have more focus points in frame periphery 
Movie-mode IS decreases angle of view slightly 
Video Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual exposure models only available with manual focus 
Some video moire issues, exacerbated by digital zoom 
No provision for trimming movie in-camera 
No flicker reduction for fluorescent lights 
Auto-crop can't be disabled if you want to use area outside the official image circle"
  
  
  

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